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Lumino Magazine - June 2004 :

"Queer as Folk" gives America a culture shock
By ANN FINSTAD
I can still remember where I was the first time I watched "Queer as Folk." I was getting ready to go to bed after a day on the beach, flipping channels in a Cancun hotel room. I stopped on a channel featuring a show Iíd heard about but never seen. There were subtitles in Spanish running across the bottom of the screen, I couldnít name a single character Ö and I was glued to my seat Ė er, bed Ė for every minute, from the opening with its brightly colored dancing boys all the way through the end credits.
My sister was hooked, too, and each night, we would apply Solarcaine to our sunburns and, without the benefit of a TV Guide, turn on the television in hopes that another episode would be on.
We were there a week, and in that time, we saw a good chunk of the first season.
What I remember most about vacationing in Cancun were not the gorgeous beaches or the endless blue skies; not the Mayan ruins or the attractive Mexican soccer team staying at the same hotel. I remember that television show.
To call "Queer as Folk" a gay show is like calling "Friends" a straight show, or "CSI" a crime show. It's true in the strictest sense, but lacking when it comes to honestly describing what the series is and what it accomplishes. "Queer as Folk" is smartly written, with vivid characters, caring families, relevant social commentary, and love stories that will tug at your heartstrings. It just so happens that most of its characters are gay.
The show is not one for the younger-than-13 set, or the squeamish. But that's not because of the subject matter. It's because of the show's depictions of drug use, profanity, casual sex and nudity Ė in a post-"Sex and the City" world. But isnít that what weíve come to expect from cable TV? Barrier-breaking story lines and scenes to match, gritty real-life stories that contain all the pathos, reality, and drama that we donít get in the sitcom world? "Queer as Folk" accomplishes all this and more.
Whereas network TV Ė despite all the "progress" that's been made Ė still hypes a same-sex kiss in grandiose, sweeps month fashion, "Queer as Folk" does none of that. It simply says this is the way we live our life. Accept it for what it is.
"Queer as Folk" has been accused of being over-the-top and showing only a small stereotyped portion of gay life. But isnít it better to show a fraction of that life than none at all?
Sure, sometimes the story lines get a little soapy and every so often I wonder how many more bare butts I can take in an hour. But as a whole, it's fresh television of the non-WB variety. After all, even the most precocious teens on those shows don't spout lines like "you like young dick?" as an introduction like 16-year-old Hunter did during the third season of "Queer as Folk."
This June issue of Lumino Magazine features interviews with six cast members of "Queer as Folk." Each reflects on his or her role, as well as real life. In the Cultured section, Lumino also has personal stories of a man growing up gay in Chicago and a straight woman who sees shades of gray. Cultured also contains an argument against gay marriage, and a feature on the inborn/environment debate.
If you havenít seen "Queer as Folk," nowís your chance to start. I guarantee it wonít take a trip to Cancun to hook you Ė though it couldnít hurt.
And even if you don't agree with the lifestyle portrayed, shows like "Queer as Folk" demand America's attention and fire up a social dialogue. And discussing any topic Ė instead of treating it as taboo Ė is good.

Hal Sparks is just like us
By JESSE SCACCIA
Hal Sparks is intelligent, affable, funny, clean-cut, highly quotable, good looking in a non-threatening way, endearing, and has been the star of a highly regarded primetime Showtime program for the last three seasons. Why, then, did it take more than a year for him to land on a major talk show?
"People were afraid of the word queer, I guess," says Sparks, star of "Queer as Folk." His first network talk show appearance came on "The Tonight Show" on Jan. 26, 2001 Ė 421 days after "Queer as Folk" first hit American air waves.
"Leno was freaked out," Sparks says. "Granted, it was my first time on the show. But there was this ĎLetís get through these questionsí vibe to it. I made a joke at his expense and it got a big laugh. It was more relaxed after that."
The joke that disarmed the king of late night television? "He asked how it was to kiss a guy. I said, ĎHow committed are you to experimenting?í"
Sparks isnít gay. He isnít queer, homosexual, or a fag, either, but thanks for asking. Heís from Kentucky, he doesnít bite, and heís straight. This is a fact that some people will not accept.
"I get asked the same question by the same reporters over the years, even after Iíve been up front with them. They keep asking if Iím gay yet. Like, has it taken?" Sparks says with an audible sigh. "Thereís this idea that being gay is contagious. That itís airborne."
The 34-year-old Sparks is your everyday, down-to-earth actor with a touring rock band, an expertise in martial arts, a faith in Buddhism, a regular gig on VH1ís "I Love the '70s" and "I Love the '80s" series, and the starring role of Michael, the protagonist on "Queer as Folk," the show that won "Outstanding Drama Series" at last yearís GLAAD Awards.
Really, Hal Sparks is just like you and me. There is an irony to the fact that not only is one of the most prominent faces of gay America straight, but heís an ass-kicker as well. The 150-pound, 5-foot-8-inch Sparks has been known to throw down when necessary. "It was a few years ago. It was some dick at a party yelling at his girlfriend," Sparks says, remembering his last fight. "I gave my standard speech. ĎIf you have this arrangement with your girlfriend, you can do it in your own home. But if you do it in public, youíre saying youíre the big monkey in the room. And youíre not.í And thatís usually when I throw the guy through a table."
Sparks doesnít mind taking on the biggest monkeys of them all, including the current presidential administration. "The world is currently run by rich kids on coke," he says, referring to the Bush administration. He wouldnít mind working for a think tank or the Carlyle Group, if only so he can begin sentences with "theoretically speaking."
Hal Sparks is drawn to religion, politics, and sex in the same hypnotic way that preteen girls are drawn to the Olsen twins. He canít seem to stay away from all the topics that you arenít supposed to talk about at the dinner table. "I find it very ironic that if the Bible were found today in Syria, the people who found it would be burning it because of where they found it," he says.
"Only the Middle Eastern religions speak of an end," Sparks continued. "All other religions are cyclical. In the Middle East where you live in a desert, life is hell. You have to believe that maybe youíll find an oasis after you die, and you have to believe that death is better than life. It breeds this kind of psychology. The highest thing becomes overcoming physical death."
When Hal Sparks talks, his voice is calm and confident. It is clear in the way he articulates his ideas that his thoughts are more lucid than most peopleís. Sparks is one of a new brand of celebrity that has shunned the vapid, party animal, sunglasses-and-tan-skin look in favor of a more well-rounded and intelligent image. In fact, Sparks doesnít smoke, drink or do drugs Ė all of which he makes sure you remember.
It might just be that he doesnít have time for these things. Hal Sparksí plate is piled higher than a tray at the Shoneyís buffet. Apart from the acting, the television specials, the band, and the martial arts, Sparks has even grander ambitions. "Eventually I want to be a white collar actor who goes to Italy who gets pictures taken of him in the buff against their will," he says.
Just like the rest of us, right?

Peter Paige chases ambitious career
By LUKAS SZYMAKEK
If it talks like a woman, walks like a woman and dresses like a man who spends too much time getting in touch with his inner woman, then it is probably Emmett Honeycutt. Out of the "Queer As Folk" bunch he is the radiant one. Heís the optimist, the naÔf, the comic relief, the queen. He is Jack McFarland. Whether he is starring in his best friendís gay porn productions as a main attraction, or mourning the sudden death of his senior lover after the two have sex in an airplane bathroom, the character never fails to deliver laughs, heart and surprising depth.
"I donít mean to come down on other actors, but I honestly think I got the best character," admits Peter Paige of his TV incarnation, the colorful Emmett. "He has so much life in him. Heís so open with his emotions."
The actor has had a lot of experience acting in television and theater. Before landing a role on "Queer As Folk" he did short but memorable appearances in sitcoms like "Suddenly Susan" and "Will & Grace." But it is his theatrical background that really speaks of Peterís acting merit. An enthusiast of the profession since his childhood in West Hartford, Conn., Paige graduated from Boston Universityís School of Theatre Arts and starred in numerous productions nationwide before being spotted by an agent and eventually moving to Los Angeles.
"Iím a greedy little mother. I want to do it all," admits Paige jokingly, but also with a sense of urgent seriousness.
Paige's other passions are writing and directing. He talks about eventually moving out of the mainstream spotlight and getting behind the camera. "I want a Stanley Tucci, or Kevin Spacey-kind of a career," he says.
Paige refers to the diversity of the other actorsí projects. He also longs for the theater. "Last year I did a world premiere, and I did plays at the end of "Queer As Folk" seasons 1 and 2," he says. "This has been the longest time I have gone without being on stage now."
Meanwhile, thereís a new season of "Queer As Folk," and Peter has been doing a lot of promoting for the show, including trips to New York, Miami, Atlanta, and San Francisco. The new season, he says, will be interesting for Emmett, who at the end of the last one came to a painful confrontation with his boyfriend, Ted, over a drug addiction.
"Thereís a lot of damage that has to be undone," Paige admits. "But the producers really let the characters settle in their breakup."
Paige reiterates how much he enjoys playing a character so versatile, emotionally honest, and trustful even if sometimes a bit naÔve. Emmett went from working in retail to working in porn, from the arms of a much older lover to those of his best friend. He has always remained extremely tolerant and positive. A gay stereotype or not, Emmett Honeycutt is a strong and proud man who can be admired in his versatility and self-confidence. Paige admits that later in the new season, Emmett will get in some trouble. But in a good way, he adds quickly.
Now back in LA, Peter is busy with a yet another project. He is directing a low-budget, independent movie titled "Donut Hole," starring himself and Kathy Najimy. He describes the film briefly as "a comedy about the culture of suspicion." He had a casting session and a meeting scheduled, followed by a discussion with producers.
While the exertion of a director is enormous and completely different from an actorís experience, Peter may have found his element here. He wants to do it all. And who are we to say he canít?

Scott Lowell battles weather, character's tragedy
By LUKAS SZYMANEK
It was the last week of March when Scott Lowell finally arrived home after another six-month shoot in Toronto. You can sense a joy and relief in his voice Ė or perhaps he sounds like that all the time. Maybe he is one of those people who doesnít complain no matter how much work exhausts him. Maybe itís because he is doing an interview and knows Iím writing down every word. His sense of humor is nothing but genuine, though.
I feel comfortable, even a bit intimidated and shamelessly jealous. Heís in sunny L.A., probably on his porch. Iím sitting in my apartment in Chicago, having deserted the winter-tortured outdoors for the comfort of the living room couch.
Lowell knows what Iím talking about when I casually complain to him about the weather in an awkward beginning of our conversation. Born in 1965 in Denver, then having studied acting in Connecticut for 11 years since 1987, Lowell has lived, grown and acted here in the Windy City. But no, he has not hung out with David Schwimmer.
"[Chicago] is a great place to start off as an actor," admits the Ďnot-much-anymoreí struggling star himself. "For six, seven years I have done non-union off Loop theatre, going from show to show. I ended up doing everything, even if four people showed up. You learn so much from that."
There also were more successful performances at the famed Steppenwolf and Goodman theaters. He reminds himself for a moment in the sprit of self-irony of a terrible review he once got from a Chicago Tribune critic, who called his performance in "The Merchant of Venice," "bluntlessly unfunny." Lowell is not bitter about criticism, though. These days, he nails the dry and often uneasy humor of Ted Schmidt on the hit Showtime drama "Queer As Folk," not to mention the characterís inner demons. Thereís also the personal and difficult aspect of shedding Ted from his consciousness at home.
"Ted is a terrific guy. He is very caring; he loves his friends," Lowell says. "It is hard for me to see him go through all these terrible things."
Last season, the writers gave the actor a chance to strut his dramatic talent by throwing some harsh barrels under Tedís feet. Viewers watched him fall in love with his best friend Emmett, then spiral into drug addiction that wrecked his life, love and friendship.
Lowell talks about the "lack of self-love, the amount of self-loathing" that is evident in his character. "He does not see his own worth, constantly searches for happiness outside of himself."
In the third season more than ever, Lowell had to successfully balance his characterís dual persona. Seen only as overly sarcastic and comically insecure until recently, Ted exposed himself as deeply disturbed, succumbing to addiction despite his boyfriendís affection. "Itís this self torture he puts himself through Ė it is starting to take its toll on me. I love playing this character that goes beyond only surface happiness, but the residual effects I have to come home with are tough," Lowell says.
His honest portrayal of pained addiction resonated in appreciation from real-life victims. The gay-themed show that has tackled so many issues already has given a new audience demographic something big to relate to. "I have friends who are addicts, who now talk to me about their problem. Last yearís story line moved a lot of people, it validated their own experience. Theyíre happy we recognized them."
So how will Ted cope with his tragedy? "He will start to rebuild his life from scratch," Lowell says. "Itís been a difficult journey; Ted hurt Emmett a lot, but the writers did a wonderful job with recovery."
Still, Lowell says his and Peter Paigeís (who plays Emmett) schedules were a lot different this past shooting period, hinting at the on-screen coupleís possible fate. "The new season will show a lot of growth in character, relationships getting deeper, and boys becoming men, coming into maturity."
When Lowell and I spoke, the cast was still waiting for the showís official pick-up for next season. Recently, the big guys over at Showtime decided to bring this fable of queer Neverland by way of Pittsburgh back for a fifth season. "Queer As Folk," while never really critically praised for its creativity has proved a big success on both commercial and cultural fronts over the years. "The show has been ahead of the curve and now itís riding the wave," Lowell says, referring to its gay content and graphic explicitness. "Showtime spent a lot of money in re-launching the series; theyíve been very supportive," he adds, quite certain (correctly, it turns out) that the network will green light another year.
For now, it is time to switch from the brutal Toronto weather and even more brutal subconscious of Ted to the sunny-minded state of California. I learn that Lowell's vacation does not start yet, though. The life of an actor on a mega-popular TV network drama does not end with a final season wrap and a cast hug. There are plenty of promotional appearances to make. Lowell is also collaborating in writing with his friend, film actor Eddie Jemison, this summer, but admits it is hard to focus on anything else after "Queer As Folk."
As for the weather, I realize a bit late that Toronto is actually north of Illinois and all of a sudden I get a new perspective on my cold Chicago suffering. As well as my drug-free status. Hang in there, Scott and Ted. From here it can only get better.

Randy Harrison: "Don't call him Justin"
By ANN FINSTAD
As Justin Taylor on "Queer as Folk," Randy Harrison has come a long way in three-plus seasons. Once a naive 17-year-old who, when asked if he liked the drug Special K replied "I like Cheerios better," Justin has become the King of Babylon, a survivor of a violent gay-bashing incident, a successful comic book artist, and, most recently, a member of a gay vigilante group Ė as well as winning over the "heartless" Brian Kinney to boot.
But donít confuse Harrison with the character he plays on TV. During a recent conversation, heís quick to point out that although he and Justin might look alike, thatís where the similarities end. "I think that when he was younger he was more similar to maybe what I was when I was that age. But, you know we sort of have grown up in really different directions Ö itís harder for me to relate to him now than it ever has been. I mean itís more of a stretch."
"I like that heís more different from me now. I find it interesting. I find it kind of interesting to start playing someone that has sort of grown into someone that you probably wouldnít hang out with in real life, or have that much interest in talking to Ö " he trails off with a laugh.
Those are strong words regarding a character thatís brought Harrison much notoriety and acclaim since "Queer as Folk" premiered. As an openly gay cast member of show thatís often heralded as the groundbreaking forerunner to the current glut of mainstream programming featuring homosexuals, I ask Harrison what itís like to have been a part of that for almost four years.
"Iím glad that one of the first major things I did, as far as job-wise, was something that does have some social relevance Ö and I felt like that when I started doing 'Queer as Folk.' I was aware of it, that we were pushing boundaries, and we were the first of a lot of things. And it felt good to know that."
"But weíve done that," Harrison says. "And we did it four years ago. It all kind of seems like a fad a little bit. And as much as people believe itís progress, it doesnít seem like it is really."
"I mean, I think the most important thing is it at least created a sort of a dialogue for people to talk about gay rights and talk about homosexuality," Harrison says. "And I think it probably is at this point a little bit easier for teenagers to come out and for people who are in positions where theyíre tortured by their identity to [cope] a little better."
"But as far as what itís done for the gay community, you know, thatís already out, and active," Harrison says. "I donít know that thereís necessarily been progress. I feel like thereís a backlash already, a little bit. I feel like itís as limiting in what people expect of you as a homosexual, or what they think you are like. We sort of define ourselves in a way, by these representations of a really small aspect of what we are in the community."
But despite the faddish nature of the media explosion, Harrison concedes that it has resulted in an overall positive outcome, even if it falls short in some ways.
"Itís just hard because Iím more interested in laws actually changing, and the true perception, the American perception of what we are actually changing, and I donít really see that happening. I mean, weíre still pushing. But I feel like the whole aspect of civil rights, itís totally independent of a television set."
When it comes to talking about infamous sex scenes and nudity that "Queer as Folk" features on a weekly basis, Harrison sounds weary, like heís tired of answering the question. I canít blame him if he is Ė but we are a culture obsessed with sex, as heís quick to point out, so thereís no skirting the issue.
"Itís funny because everyone wants to talk about [the scenes]. People like to latch onto sex for some reason still, and get sort of obsessive about the naked body. Itís funny because when you watch it, just the fact that itís two people who appear to be naked Ė even though weíre not Ė in proximity to each other, an amount of intimacy comes across that oftentimes just really isnít there. Itís totally technical. But people see two things and they create that in their minds. You know, you canít see two naked people together that close and not assume a sort of intimacy."
And what does he think of the infatuation that people, especially straight women, have with the Brian and Justin relationship?
"I find it sort of mildly amusing. It just seems kind of strange, Iím not really a television person, so whenever people get sort of obsessive relationships about television characters I find it sort of bizarre."
As one of those people (with the memory of my latest "TV boyfriend" fresh on my mind), I laugh nervously as he continues. "Itís really sweet and itís nice that for whatever reason the story line and our work [are] so compelling."
During the six months of the year while heís not filming "Queer as Folk," Harrison spends time auditioning, doing theater, and catching up with friends and family, as well as taking classes part time at Columbia University. When I ask what he studies, he says his interests lie in English Literature and other artistic classes Ė but "not acting [classes]."
As our conversation continues, I get the impression that Harrison is ready to move on to the next phase in his life, where the issue isnít how many times his butt has been on television or whether or not Justin and Brian will ever fully commit to each other.
Harrisonís true enthusiasm seems to lie with the work heís producing outside of "Queer as Folk."
He makes no secret that heís tired of dressing up and making the promotional rounds for the show and prefers working in theater over television. He talks more willingly about his own interests than the events that occur when heís Justin Taylor, at one point even saying "It feels strange to be talking about [Justin] because heís not a real person."
As evidence of his emphatic non-Justin-ism, Harrison shares that unlike his character, he has no talent as an artist, but his creativity does express itself in other ways. "I write. But Iíve never been happy enough to let other people read what I write. Iíve never had the focus and the attention span to write a novel. I think I wrote like a 120 page mini-novel when I was like, 15, and that was the longest thing Iíve ever written and it was terrible. I write short plays and short movies that I shoot with my digital camera with my friends."
And when he thinks of the future, when Justin is just a tiny speck in his rearview mirror?
"Iíll keep acting, you know. Iíll definitely keep doing theater. Iíd love to break into film. Iím making small films with my friends now, and after five years of doing that, it could become bigger films. Iíd love to start a theater company [with a group of friends] Ö Iíll just keep acting. I donít know exactly what the opportunities that will present themselves to me are, I know Iím creating a lot of my own work and thatíll definitely get bigger and more exciting and maybe one day even scrounge me up some money."
He laughs, possibly aware that this sounds strange, and amends himself to say that heíd like to make money on work heís created on his own, not just by playing someone elseís character.
With the fifth season of "Queer as Folk" just announced, Justin Taylor isnít quite out of the picture for Randy Harrison yet. But at least Harrison is excited about his many prospects for the future.

Randy Harrison: one of the folks at home
By LUKAS SZYMANEK
"It was said that he was gay in real life." I am quoting from a certain Internet biography of "Queer as Folk" star Randy Harrison. This is the opening paragraph; one sentence. In the next one we learn the year of his birth and of his professional acting experience.
It is a relatively long second paragraph, the last one in fact. In the margin, thereís a photograph of Harrison in a tight see-through T-shirt, and sparkles around his head. An idol for the gay community is born, one who is gay in his private life as well. Just like his TV character Justin is on-screen. One goes so well with the other.
Though I wanted to, I did not ask Harrison to comment on his homosexuality. I think the closest I came was when I referred to Gale Howardís Brian as a "hunk" while talking about his and Justinís troubled relationship. I needed to take homosexuality out of any personal territory.
I can definitely see the appeal; sunny blonde highlights, eternally boyish facial features (those lips!, those cheekbones!), a slim, slightly-toned body, and not a hair on his delicate skin. But even the paltry Internet biography tells me thereís more to Harrison than his metrosexual features. And my gay friends are already willing to sell themselves into my slavery to get his phone number.
But I read further, refusing to be a gay man who stops at the first paragraph.
I much prefer the description "veteran of the stage." You must not have been wasting time cruising buff men in gay bars if youíre proclaimed that at age 27. The truth is Harrison has been acting since early in his life. He graduated with a BFA in Theater from the Cincinnati College Ė Conservatory of Music. Heís been in various stage productions from Shakespeareís "Midsummer Night Dream" to "Shopping and Fucking." TV might not seem like the proper progression of an actorís career in terms of creative ambition, but it certainly is an offer one definitely finds hard to refuse.
"Theater actors know you donít make money on stage," Harrison admits, "I was excited about coming to TV. I feel more financially secure now."
He tries to continue doing stage work, but finds his theater career "always on halt, when you have to go to Toronto [for the "Queer as Folk" shoot].
Not that heís under-appreciative or resentful of his television work. "It is not nearly as satisfying, but the process is just as exhausting," Harrison says. "And I love the group of people I work with."
But still, television equals quality murder, right? Well, Justin Taylor is not your typical, fake ID-possessing, man-obsessed twink. Heís a fighter and a survivor. Heís an artist.
During the first season on "Queer As Folk" we watched him win over the heart of sex god Brian Kinney ,and display great amounts of courage and confidence. Harrison has given the character not only his irresistible innocent looks, but also great charisma and sensibility that transcend his actions.
In the course of three seasons, Justin was gay-bashed at his prom, clashed with his mother over sexuality, struggled to stay in school, upheld his drawing talent and creativity, and soldiered through a grueling relationship with the older and emotionally arrested Brian with great naivety and even greater persistence.
Dare I call Justin a gay teenage role model?
"There is a lot to be learned from Justin," Harrison says, "Thereís something really powerful and significant about his coming out process."
Harrison, however, cannot help but judge Justin for getting sidetracked and lost as of late. "He is 22 and finds himself stuck in the club culture. He dropped out of college and doesnít pursue a career."
Harrison tells me that this season there will be much more drama when it comes to Justin, especially involving a story line in which his friend gets bashed but doesnít want to press charges. Harrison says Justin becomes a vigilante. "It is a wonderfully absurd but pretty radical and interesting story line that a lot of people can relate to."
As for his love affair with Brian, Harrison remains skeptical. It was always pretty evident that Brian, throughout the relationship, needed Justin more than Justin needed him. Even though Brian financially supported the young student for a short while, emotionally, the ball was always in Justinís court.
"I think theyíre not meant to be together. There is the age difference for starters," Harrison says. "Everything that Justin and Brian have created looks a bit juvenile now, and Justin realizes that."
That's a pretty tough hit to the fans, many of who look at Justin and Brian as the gay Ross and Rachel.
"They were a central couple in the beginning," Harrison says. "But now the focus shifted towards Michael and his relationship." The "Friends" simile may not be totally out of line though. This season the couple is back together yet again.
As for Harrison, he just completed a DVD promo tour in February, and new season parties in Miami and New York. He is now done with his share of promotional obligations, and is happy to relax in his New York City home.
"It is beautiful here now. Iím beginning to defragment," he says, "I am ready to jump into my new life."
Making out with Gale Howard on a regular basis is too exhausting? I bite my tongue not to ask the question.

Gill adds feminine angle to 'Queer as Folk'
By ANN FINSTAD
Sometimes, amid the gorgeous hard bodies that populate dance club Babylon, the witty banter of Ted and Emmett, the adorable grins of Michael and Justin, and the searing gaze of Brian Kinney, itís easy to forget that there are lesbians on "Queer as Folk" too.
The story of Lindsey Peterson and her partner Melanie Marcus has often been relegated to "Queer as Folkís" back burner in favor of showing more pecs and ass, but theyíre a strong part of the show in their own right. In fact, I was surprised that Showtimeís new series "The L Word" wasnít a Melanie and Lindsey spinoff to begin with.
Thea Gill is soft spoken and articulate, much like Lindsey, the character she plays. Even the fact that she is recovering from a bad cold doesnít seem to faze her when we speak, as she talks about how happy she is to finally be home with her six cats, relaxing after the whirlwind promotional schedule that accompanied the launch of the fourth season of "Queer As Folk." Most importantly, she comes across as genuinely happy to be involved in something that has had such an effect on people, and speaks of her character with a mixture of awe and affection.
Gill, a native of Canada, knew she wanted to be an actress at a young age, although she admits that if she hadnít, she probably would have become a social worker or psychotherapist. Fans of Gill as Lindsey should be grateful that a role in an elementary school play determined her fate. "In grade five, I was in a production of 'A Christmas Carol,' and I was cast as Scrooge, and for some reason I was really excited about that and once I played that role and got to be on stage in front of my schoolmates and all that, I figured out that thatís what I wanted to do. I wanted to be an actress." She laughs, and continues, "and I have followed my dream ever since."
Her dream took her all the way from miser to mother. In fact, Gillís favorite episodes are the first six of the series, when the group was being introduced: Lindsey, new mother to Gus, Brianís son; and her partner Melanie, hard-edged lawyer. "So much of what [Lindseyís] character is comes out of those first few episodes, like she has her first child. She has her best friend become a father for the first time. She for the first time is entering into a gay family, creating one for herself being out and having a family."
Gill, a straight woman, is married to producer Brian Richmond, but that hasnít stopped her from gaining recognition for championing gay causes. In fact, her role has made her more sympathetic to difficulties faced by the gay community. "Iíve had certain experiences that have been shocking to me because I play a gay woman on television. So, I take that experience and I multiply it by 100, 200, 300,000. I canít imagine the pain that it must be like, to be on the other side of such vicious attacks. Iíve made a lot of great friends through the show. A lot of them are gay women. Iíve grown very attached to them."
And when it comes to facing criticism based on the role she plays, she says "I hope that I was the best actor for the job whether Iím straight or gay. I donít think it really matters."
Gill is hesitant at first when I ask her how playing Lindsey has affected her life, saying that she hasnít, but as she talks, it becomes more obvious she has in some important ways. "Iíve sort of become a lot more comfortable with my body, with my own sort of my sexual power as a person, I have actually become more secure with myself physically."
Gill, who also sings, is devoted to theatre as well. She tries to perform at least one play during "Queer as Folk" downtime.
When we spoke, the renewal of "Queer as Folk" was still up in the air. (It has since been picked up for a fifth season.) But beyond the show, Gill has firm ideas about where she wants her acting career to go. "I want to actually develop a musical with my stepson, my husbandÖI canít say which movie it is but we want to sort of re-stage an old idea. And in terms of film and TV Iím up for anything as long as itís interesting to me."
"Iíd like to, of course, get a nice meaty role in an independent or feature film," Gill adds. "I think my life will always dictate my career. I donít think my career will dictate my life."
Gill is grateful for the recognition and opportunities "Queer as Folk" has given her. "I feel famous sometimes!" she remarks almost giddily. She makes an effort to take time from her schedule and respond to every letter fans send her, which sometimes touch her to extreme degrees.
"There was this one boy who wrote on behalf of his friend who he believed was about to commit suicide, and you know, what would I have to say, and what would I advise. And I felt so, I felt in such a position of power, I felt like, 'I donít know, I donít know what to do in this situation. This isnít for me to say.' But yet at the same time the boy felt compelled to ask me. Itís quite a question, so I remembered to be very honest and highly recommending that he go to a doctorÖ thatís all I could really doÖbut you know, those types of lettersÖa lot have been touching and sad and effective and Ötheyíre all amazing, to feel that people feel compelled to write me and share their personal lives with me, and I treat it with great respect."

Allan's character, Hunter, returns for another season
By ANN FINSTAD
If the name Harris Allan isnít familiar to you Ė it soon will be, if this 19-year-old actor/musician has his way.
The new kid on the "Queer as Folk" cast, Allan first appeared in the middle of season three, playing Hunter, a 16-year-old street hustler taken in by Michael and Ben after finding out he was HIV positive. Early this season, he permanently became a part of Michael and Benís lives after they won a custody battle with Hunterís mother, a former drug addict who pushed Hunter into prostitution.
Donít let the dark nature of Hunterís past fool you. This is no broody teen character of the WB variety. Alternately volatile and loving, and often sarcastic, Allan says Hunter is always fun to play. "Every day, every week we get a script and I see the new stuff and Iím like ĎI get to say this, I get to do that! Thatís awesome!í Dude, he can go anywhere! Like, heís a teenager, he can do whatever he wants. They can make him however they want to. And teenagers are always changing, itís a lot more flexible with teenagers than adults. And itís really fun."
The character will be back for the just-renewed fifth season, which surprised Allan.
"They said it was renewed for a fifth season?" he asked incredulously. When I assured him that I had seen it on Showtimeís official Web site, he cracked, "Iím glad Iím informed." He promised, "If theyíre back in fifth season, then Iím back."
A third season on a critically acclaimed show? Not bad for a kid from Vancouver who started acting at 11, spurred by the work ofÖMacaulay Culkin?
"When I was 9, I asked my mom if I could start acting, because I was watching "Home Alone" and "Home Alone 2" and just tearing through those. She said only if I got my grades up. So I asked her a couple years later once I was in grade seven, once I had fixed school and everything, and she said OK. Weíll go for it. And weíre going to do this the right way. We got an agent and I started auditioning, getting roles. The ball started rolling from there."
His first major role came at age 15, when he was on three episodes of "Cold Squad," a television show in Vancouver. A few smaller roles came after that, but nothing to match the magnitude of "Queer as Folk," a show he hadnít heard of before he read for the part.
"I hadnít actually seen the American version. I didnít even really know there was an American version. I saw the British version advertising on Showcase (the Canadian premium cable channel that airs "Queer as Folk"), and thatís it."
He may have been the new kid on the block, but he quickly clicked with the cast, especially Hal Sparks and Robert Gant, who play his guardians. He and Sparks snowboard together when theyíre filming in Toronto
"Hal and Robert are awesome, we do really good work. We have the most scenes together, so when weíre off camera weíre just having fun and talking. I try to relate to a lot of stuff that theyíre talking about. So I read a lot of books that are, you know, intellectual books that I wouldnít normally read, like "The Da Vinci Code" and "Fast Food Nation." We hang out, we go to movies and stuff, work out."
Allan continues praising his cast mates, repeatedly calling them "fun" and "cool," even though he sometimes finds it difficult to follow all their interests. "A lot of people are American, so I have to keep up with the American politics, but I have a really hard time doing that."
Despite his constant enthusiasm over how fun it is to play the role of Hunter, it must be difficult to play someone with such serious issues facing him, right?
"I still have to remind myself and kind of put that into the character all the time. That he is HIV positive, has been abandoned many times, doesnít really trust anyone," Allan says. "Itís always underlying, even if itís a light scene or a heavy scene. Heís also really fun because, well, I guess fun is an unusual word. Heís more challenging in an exciting way. Heís got a very hard exterior, is crass and makes a lot of jokes. But I think thatís also to hide the actual pain thatís underlying. Heís a very hurt kid and heís still learning a lot. I think heís an observer. Heís always seeing what people are talking about, and then he has his own say."
Unlike the character he plays, Allan has a very supportive family Ė who are also huge fans of "Queer as Folk." "They watch it every night," Allan says.
Allan's friends even yell at the screen in support of HunterÖand Allan.
"My friends and I watch it and theyíre like ĎNo, Harris, donít go with him Harris!í I say, ĎItís not me, itís Hunter!í"
In addition to his family, heís received positive fan response from the role he plays, and is in regular communication with his fan base via his Web site, www.harrishideaway.com. "I write the people who send me letters and e-mails," Allan says. "I love the fans. I love engaging and talking to them and hearing what they have to say about the show and what they think."
Allanís role on "Queer as Folk" also helped win additional parts. During the break in filming between seasons three and four, Allan had a part (later cut) in the movie "Paycheck," played a gill-possessing "freak of the week" on the WBís Smallville, and played the young Jonathan Glover in the soon-to-be released film "A Home at the End of the World," making for one busy break.
"I finished filming at seven in the morning on "Queer as Folk." I went home, slept 'til 11:30 then immediately went over to rehearsal for "A Home at the End of the World." So I had four hours in between."
Fortunately, Allan likes being busy, which bodes well for his myriad of future plans. When asked what he wants to be doing in five years, 10 years, he rattles off a list that would impress an Olsen twin.
"I will be in feature films. Acting. Leading them. I will be touring and recording with my band still, and making that even bigger, lots of huge concerts filling arenas. I want to have a restaurant that plays movies and has bands that I like play there. I want to have a huge house. Ten years Ė I will be 29 in ten years," he says, and like any teenager, sounds mildly in awe at the prospect. "I may have kids by then. Like, seven kids on a farm."
Seven kids?! I interject, warning him not to tell his girlfriend (yep, heís straight, and attached) about those plans yet. He modifies himself before continuing on his laundry list of goals. "I think threeís the ideal number for kids. Iíd love to have a clothing line. Cause, then I could make my own clothes and stuff, and theyíre completely exactly what I want. Cause even now, you go around shopping and stuff, and you find stuff that works for you, but never exactly what you want. I also want to direct movies as well. Iíd like to be the commander of the ship. And Iím writing screenplays."
"I have a lot of aspirations," he admits, still managing to sound humble.
Allanís current plans include whatever acting jobs await him before the fifth season of "Queer as Folk" begins filming, and getting Square Nine Ė the band heís in with his two best friends Ė off the ground.
"Iím doing concerts with them and weíre recording, writing a lot of songs, doing a lot of rehearsals. Weíre going to be putting together our demo. Iím really excited," he says enthusiastically. Allan plays guitar, bass, and sings. True to form, he also plans to learn to play drums and piano.
He describes the band's sound as rock, and acknowledges alternative and punk influences. "Weíre going to have an album sometime, probably after summer, or during summer, so look out for that."
No matter what his endeavor, Harris Allan seems to be enjoying himself, and will certainly be someone to look for in the future.



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